ERC Starting Grant for Ruben Van Coile

(26-11-2022) Associate professor Ruben Van Coile has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant for his research proposal AFireTest.

Associate professor Ruben Van Coile has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant for his research proposal AFireTest. The project team will constitute of 3 PhDs, 2 post-docs and Ruben, supported by the larger Structural Fire Engineering team. It will run for 5 years, and has a total funding of 1.5 million EUR.

An ERC grant is considered very prestigious. Adopting the words of the ERC, the European Research Council "aims to stimulate scientific excellence in Europe" by funding research proposals by "the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age from anywhere in the world".

Introduction to the project AFireTest

Fire testing for fire-safe sustainable buildings Sustainability and energy-efficiency are quickly transforming the built environment. High performance glazing, cross-laminated timber and other innovations are changing the way we build. Currently, we assume that our existing standardized test methods and design prescriptions are sufficient to ensure that the green buildings we build will also be fire safe. We forget that key standardized test methods have their origin in the late 19th century and have never been developed with a view on characterizing innovative 21st century construction products. We ignore that our design prescriptions are mainly based on learning from disasters, meaning that the main approach to ensuring fire safety in buildings is a strategy of "wait and see".

Within AFireTest, the research team of Ruben Van Coile aims to develop the necessary methods and tools for a science-based approach to fire testing and fire safety in the built environment. A concept of "Adaptive Fire Testing" will be developed whereby fire tests are adapted to the specifics of the building product and its application, allowing for detailed insight in fire performance. This testing framework will be integrated in a risk-based approach to building design acceptance, making it possible to move away from generic design prescriptions towards the building-specific evaluation of fire safety. Finally, the costs and benefits of the new framework for fire safety will be evaluated and compared against the current approach, clarifying whether the technical benefits of the proposed new framework for fire safety justify the necessary investments for its operationalization.